Spring Kismet

Bugs - Birdy

When it comes to creating a garden this Spring, look to the ladybug as a potential ally! Many different species of ladybugs are actually categorized as beetles; the number of spots and color changes differentiate the varieties. They are the first line of defense for anyone interested in eco-friendly ways to rid their garden of pests, which is their most significant contribution to any ecosystem. Ladybugs are big plant protectors, and by eating the pests, they allow other pollinators to thrive and their predators to have food for the busy spring season. 

The ladybug has four life cycles: The first is brightly colored orange clusters of eggs, usually on the backs of leaves. If you want to encourage ladybugs to lay eggs in your garden, plant some Nettle. It’s one of their favorites! When the eggs hatch, their larvae are long black with orange dots, and they can look like pests, so it’s important to know the difference. They will immediately start to eat any aphids they find. They can eat 50 a day and will eat 5,000 in one lifetime. Along with aphids, they eat whitefly, mites, and many other scale insects that destroy crops. 

To promote ladybugs in your garden, avoid using pesticides (poison for pests is also poison for pollinators). You can plant flat-topped flowers such as yarrow, angelica, fennel, and dill, along with common companion plants like calendula, sweet asylum, and marigold, to encourage ladybugs to visit. You can also build bug hotels to give ladybugs somewhere to sleep during winter, where they hibernate before breeding in the springtime and concluding their life cycle. They often hibernate inside hollowed stems, so avoid cutting old stems and cleaning the garden until Spring.

Fungi - Nichole + Raymond

Ah, springtime, a season of blooming flowers, fresh breezes, and... fungi! Yes, my friends, fungi have some fascinating tricks up their spore-filled sleeves during this time of year. Here are some intriguing facts about fungi in the springtime:

  • Fungi, like nature’s recyclers, kick into high gear during Spring. As the snow melts and the rain showers the earth, fungi come out to play. They feast on organic matter, such as fallen leaves and decaying plant material, breaking them down into nutrient-rich fertilizer.
  • Did you know that some mushrooms have a flair for the dramatic? They love the spring rain so much that they demonstrate a spectacle known as “mushroom rain,” wherein the rains release fungal spores, creating a magical mist. 
  • In Spring, fungi team up with their tree buddies in a mutually beneficial relationship called mycorrhizal symbiosis. These fungi cozy up to tree roots and form a cellular network that helps the trees absorb water and nutrients from the soil. In return, the trees provide the fungi with sugars, a sweet deal indeed!

Fungi are noticed most in Spring due to the sudden appearance of their fruiting bodies. Fungi contribute to microbial diversity and community structures in soils. The types of fungi you see in your local environment and on the surface are often dictated by the soil pH, elevation, moisture, nutrients, and other botanicals in the area. You don’t see the vast networks of mycelium, the core structure of fungal life, beneath your feet. This mycelium is critical for protecting the ecosystem from degradation and supporting the life of all critters, creepy crawlies, plants, and even us. Shae wrote a great article, “Mycelium in the Garden,” in our 2020 Almanac (available free digitally on our website), discussing the importance and different types of fungi. Nichole also has a fantastic article on 5 Easy-to-Identify Mushrooms!

Here are some things you can do to encourage fungi growth in your yard and garden this Spring: 

  • Add organic matter to your garden or yard, such as leaves, pine needles, or wood chips. Try not to make the layers too thick to avoid the suffocation of plants. Do note, however, many bugs use yard debris for winter hibernation, which means that is important to leave alone until the danger of frost has passed. 
  • If available, spread around a mixture of manure(s), compost, and regular ol’ dirt to provide a healthy environment for the mycelium. 
  • If you can avoid it, don’t till. Tilling breaks up the mycelium structure in the soil, which takes time to restore. 
  • Avoid synthetic fertilizers and chemicals. These damage and destroy the mycelium network, which affects plants’ immune systems, and cause compaction over time, leading to dead ground. Try utilizing more natural solutions, like compost tea (easy recipes on our blog!) for amending the soil or treating weeds and pests. 
  • To learn more: read Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets. 

Plants and Trees - Melissa

 As temperatures start to warm in the Spring, plants and trees come alive! Buds laid dormant during the winter begin to swell as trees release hormones within the bud to stimulate cells to divide and grow until the bud bursts into leaves, flowers, or new twigs. The faster the tree has left, the faster it can start photosynthesis. The hormones released also cause the tree to put on growth in its roots and branches. In the Spring, it takes a while for leaves to turn green as they start to build chlorophyll. Even evergreen plants and trees will emerge from dormancy, producing new leaves and greener colors. 

Different plants have different signals to start their growing process in the Spring. Each depends on its own DNA to alert them when the growing conditions are ideal to start growing. Plants can sense when the days are getting longer, and the ground temperature is warm enough for the hormones to start. Spring weather can be fickle, so keeping an eye on those early bloomers is essential. Here are some things to keep in mind: 

Mulch insulates plants from freezing temperatures and keeps the ground cooler for longer. If you do remove mulch, only do this once the nighttime temperatures are consistently above freezing. 

When pruning trees and bushes, it is better to prune when they are still dormant. Pruning during Spring can stress the plant when they have started to grow actively. 

Keep an eye on the weather report. Although you don’t need to worry about a snowy forecast as snow will insulate plants, be watchful of freezing nightly temperatures and keep some sort of freeze protection on hand for any cold snaps. You can get row covers, sheets, or old leaves to protect tender plants from frost. 

Plant for your zone. Be mindful of your growth zone and any microclimates for your area to help you know what plants may need extra protection to survive or if they can survive your winter at all. 

Wait to plant anything until the danger of frost has passed. Also, planting can negatively impact your soil structure if you sow while the soil is still wet. It is best to wait for the ground to be completely dry.

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